If you read this fantasy baseball web-blog when it still looked like a Geocities site, you know all about Mike Fiers. Bee tee dubya, I like the new site design and I think we’ve addressed all issues with mobile devices. If there’s still problems — besides, can you change the font to Wingdings? — tell us and we’ll look at it. Things are evolving. We have something coming in March that necessitated the site changes. We had simply outgrown the old site. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for those wild orange flames that caused every fifteenth viewer to suddenly have a seizure. Maybe we can still get seizures…Together…With this new design. Last year, Fiers burst on the scene. Or rather, Fiers spontaneously combusted on the scene like he was a nine-year-old Drew Barrymore. (I’m referring to her role in Firestarter, not to her lighting up a crackpipe.) In Triple-A, he had a K and walk-rate of 8.02 and 2.95, respectively, then bested both marks in the majors with 9.52 and 2.54 rates. His pre-All-Break numbers were a thing of beauty (2.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and a 5.56 K/BB rate in 46 2/3 IP). To speak to only the K/BB, a 5.56 K/BB is incredible and would’ve been the 2nd best rate in all of the major leagues behind only Cliff Lee. None of those numbers are sustainable for Fiers and his 2nd half failed to live up to the 1st. Tiring in his first nearly full year probably played a role, but I don’t think a guy should be considered a lock to beat his Triple-A numbers in the majors. So what can we expect of Mike Fiers for 2013 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Well, I embroidered my comments in realism in the intro paragraph (or couched my comments; stupid, thesaurus!). Tis true, Fiers won’t be the pitcher we saw last year. Signs are pointing to him still being very valuable. Even with the solid numbers last year in the majors, he was dealing with some poor BABIP luck. His full-season ERA of 3.74 actually translates to a 3.47 xFIP. There’s still some concerns. The biggest thing that stands out to me is the walk rate cutting in the majors. My Blink reaction to this is hitters were swinging at pitches outside the strike zone when he was called up, then they learned to become more patient as scouting reports came back on him. Well, Malcolm Gladwell can throw that out his Broken Window Theory. It wasn’t until September his walk rate really fell apart (when his ERA also ballooned from 2.85 to 3.74). His 4.39 BB/9 in September is a terrible mark, but he didn’t throw more pitches outside the strike zone or get less first pitch strikes. In this month, he also had a .419 BABIP and a .330 BAA. Basically, everything he threw was hit, but only on September 25th was he hit hard (giving up a 72.7% line drive percentage). In that game, he went 4 1/3 and gave up four earned. So that brought my conclusion to: in September he was tired, and very unlucky. To further confuse, I looked at his fastball velocity (which isn’t great overall for a 9+ K-rate). In May, he averaged 88.6 MPH. In the last game of the season, he averaged 89.4 MPH and threw it more than in his first major league start. That doesn’t seem like someone who was tired. So, he was just unlucky? That seems too easy. Basically, Fiers is a conundrum wrapped inside a burrito with the wrapper labeled, “Open in the late rounds because there could be something excellent here.” His fastball velocity leads me to think he fall around a 8 K-rate, and I can’t ignore his minor league walk rate, so for 2013 I’ll give him the line: 11-8/3.89/1.29/167 in 185 innings. He’ll probably have some hype in the preseason, but he should be a solid sleeper. But, if you wait too long to draft him, you won’t be getting Michael Fiers even if you were f**king Michael Fiers!